In the wake of COVID-19, many organizations saw their business continuity plans—designed only to address how the business or nonprofit would carry on in case of natural disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes—fall short. Their plans weren’t built to guide them through a global pandemic; as a result, many organizations couldn’t continue serving the public or producing goods.

The business impact of the coronavirus is ongoing. That’s why now is a good time to look at the continuity plans you have in place, determine if they need revision, and then do the work to make sure they can help you through all kinds of disruptions—including pandemics.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan provides companies and nonprofit organizations with a blueprint to maintain their operations in the event of any kind of emergency or threat to the organization, including natural disasters, physical impacts to their facilities, cyberattacks, or anything else. This plan specifically identifies ways to maintain the primary functions of the business with as little disruption as possible. Standard business continuity plans cover events such as tornadoes, high winds, flooding, severe winter weather and blizzards, earthquakes, etc. In light of COVID-19, many organizations are now looking for ways to include things like pandemic preparedness in their business continuity plan.

One aspect of business preparedness is making sure your company has a solid work-from-home policy. Don’t know where to start? Download our free guide.

5 Steps For Developing Your Business Continuity Plan

1. Identify potential threats.

The first step in making sure your business can continue to operate without interruption is to identify potential disruptions. Consider all types of threats, including (but certainly not limited to) weather and natural disasters that do or can occur in your area, terrorist threats, pandemics, and more. For example, if your business operates in Southern California, you would certainly want to plan for earthquakes and wildfires.

2. Identify vital business services or functions.

Once you’ve identified potential threats, assess all the critical functions that are required in order for your organization to keep its operations running. These functions are specific to your organization,; you must do the work to identify them for yourself. To use our own company as an example, at Genesis HR, we’ve identified payroll processing and access to the HRIS portal as critical business services.

3. Determine how to meet your critical business functions.

Now that you’ve identified your critical business services, create a plan that outlines how they will be carried out in the event of each disaster scenario. This is the most important piece of business continuity planning before the disruption occurs, not while (or after) it happens, because by then it might be too late. [While this may seem obvious, many organizations don’t come up with a plan beforehand!]

To determine your most important business functions, consider the following questions:

  • Can your company meet your critical business functions remotely? How?
  • Which people must be involved to complete the critical functions?
  • Can your business be run from alternative locations?
  • Will your team need to meet in one place consistently?
  • What equipment or materials will be needed to operate remotely?

As you think through this step, I suggest you refer to FEMA’s Ready Business website. There you will find a comprehensive business continuity planning suite video series, as well as several other resources, that can help your small businesses think through and implement plans.

4. Document your plan.

Your team can’t assume people will know what to do in case of a business disruption. To that end, your business continuity plan checklist should be written down, distributed to everyone on your team, and reviewed annually. Company leaders or your HR team should provide training and communication about the business continuity plan to ensure everyone, from the top down, understands their roles and responsibilities.

What should a written business continuity plan include?

Your documented plan should include the following key elements:

  • Names and contact information for all your employees
  • Your organization’s essential operations and who’s responsible for them
  • Technology required to carry out your essential operations
  • Names and contact information of your customers, so you can be proactive about communicating with them and provide peace of mind. By doing this, they won’t wonder if you are able to fulfill their orders, provide agreed-upon services, or if you still exist.
  • Your insurance agent(s) names and contact information, the types of insurance you carry, policy numbers, deductibles, and policy limits. Note: You may want to consider purchasing a policy for business interruption insurance, which compensates you for lost income if you have to close your doors when disaster strikes.

5. Test your plan.

The last business continuity planning step is to test your plan to see if it works. The testing step is probably the most difficult, because most businesses don’t want to voluntarily “break” their business—even for good reason. Despite the fact that it may be inconvenient to take your systems offline, etc., it is critical to see if your proposed solutions work the way they should. After you complete the test, audit your existing plan: What worked, and what didn’t? Then, update the plan accordingly and add any workarounds you’ve created. Your written business continuity plan should always be up to date.

Test and revisit your plan annually. You’ll want to make adjustments for big things as well as small changes (like moved equipment, new technology, and changed systems), and your plan should reflect your business’ current state. Your business continuity plan should be continually evolving to fit the needs of your organization and the people it serves.

How Genesis Fits Into Your Business Continuity Plan

One of the most important aspects of running a small business is open communication among team members. Business continuity plans support employees so that, even in the midst of business interruptions, they feel prepared, remain engaged, and are effective in their roles.

At Genesis HR, we cover many of the essential elements of your business and help you take care of your employees We help you by removing the burdens of HR—managing payroll, benefits administration, handling historical data and contact information securely, and so much more—so you can focus on keeping your business going no matter what. Learn more about our PEO and all of our HR solutions here.

Additional Resources

Resource—FEMA’s Preparedness Planning for Your Business